PortCities London

London and the transatlantic slave trade

The horror of the slave trade

Stage 1: Trade with Africa

Scenes on the coast of Africa
View full size imageScenes on the coast of Africa. © NMM
In its most basic form, the transatlantic trade in enslaved people was a commercial triangle connecting Europe, West Africa and the Americas. Ships left British ports such as London carrying trade goods for West Africa. These might include cotton cloth, guns, gunpowder and ammunition, ironware, alcohol, trinkets, etc.

The ship’s captain then spent many weeks off the African coast trading goods for Africans captured by African slave traders. The process of negotiating the exchange of goods for Africans was very time-consuming. But once the ship was full with many hundreds of Africans and restocked with water and supplies, the captain set sail across the Atlantic.

Stage 2: The 'middle passage'

Slave ship
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